Category Archives: travel journal

Africa journal entry #10

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final service in the big tent

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

During the “Sunday School” time in the big tent at El-Shaddai church, several choirs from El-Shaddai and other churches were singing and dancing.  I noticed another instrument they were using.  It was a megaphone, of sorts.  It could be beaten with ticks, but also sang through like a microphone.  One of the choirs also brought a large drum, similar to a bongo, in that it was struck with the open hand.  Oh, and sometimes they used whistles!

IMG_20140803_124404_996Bryce spoke from John 1:35-51, in French.  He had shared his ideas about this text to me earlier, so I could tell where he was going, though I could not understand the actual words he was using at the time.  The idea was that Nathaniel was probably meditating on the story of Jacob’s ladder from the book of Genesis. But he had been having his private devotions “under his own fig tree.”  But Jesus knew what he had thought when he was alone before the LORD.  Jesus told him that he would see heaven opened, and the angels descending and ascending on the Son of Man.

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The closing exercises included presentations of gifts to both Bryce and me.  The ladies whom Bryce had taught gave a gift (accompanied by song and dance) to him.  The elders I had taught gave a gift to me, and some gifts to Penny through me.

 

 

 

More songs ensued, and more dance.  Various people were introduced, and appreciated, before they asked me to close in prayer.  Then,more songs, more dance.  The service lasted five hours and ten minutes.  It was not your usual Sunday service. It served as a great send-off for Bryce and me.  We would be departing for South Africa the next day, and then back to Atlanta, where Bryce and I would part ways, and I would fly to Richmond. 

I found out while in Atlanta (by means of my cellphone which actually worked again) that I would be missing Naomi’s departure from Richmond, because I would arrive after she left.  That made me quite sad, but it is somehow appropriate.  Father and daughter, travelling around the world, serving the same Lord.

“And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29 NET).

Africa journal entry #9

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under the mango trees

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

I was finally able to get back onto the internet this morning – only the second time since arriving in Africa.  I found that Penny had been having just as stressful a time back home as Bryce Whiting and I have had here.  I was sad to hear that, but thanked her for being my partner in life and ministry.  Nothing increases one’s appreciation for his wife like being away from her for a few days.

Today we were scheduled to meet at Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)  Advent Christian conference president Bertin Mwanya’s house.  A group of leaders of the conference met with us under two large mango trees.  We had conversations all morning, covering three topics:

  1. I gave an overview of the Global Training Initiative, sharing the variety of ways that we in North America might be able to assist DRC leaders in their leader development and ministry training.
  2. They asked me to summarize the distinctive doctrines of the Advent Christian denomination.  I had done this many times, in many places, but never without any notes.  An hour later, I came up for air.  I wish I had recorded the talk, French translation and all. It was amazing.
  3. Then the conference shared their plans for ministry in the coming years, and what they needed to accomplish those plans.  There were numerous projects mentioned, including the construction of a permanent building for the new church plant, a school, a medical clinic, a new well (which is already dug).

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Bricks piled up and ready for the construction of the new sanctuary for El-Shaddai Advent Christian Church.

 

 

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The new well dug for the community surrounding the church plant.

 

 

 

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The current

sanctuary

of El Shaddai.

 

Afterward, we shared a meal together, and enjoyed fellowship with these men of God.  Some had come from hundreds of miles to participate with other Advent Christians in the week-long training event.  We were all very grateful for the opportunity to get together, form new friendships, and pray with one another under the mango trees.

Africa journal entry #8

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last day of the conference

 

In case anyone is interested in what a gas station looks like in a developing country, here is my commercial advertisement for today.

 

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Friday, August 1st, 2014 am  Democratic Republic of Congo

This morning we tried again to withdraw cash from several ATMS, to no avail. After having breakfast at the hotel, we took the long, dusty, crater-filled to the tent-church again. 

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I continued presenting the distinctive Advent Christian doctrines again. After discussing the twelve texts in the study, I answered questions that emerged from the discussion until about 1pm.  Then we took a break for lunch.

 

IMG_20140801_140600_728I concluded the week’s study with instruction on how to use Matthew’s Gospel as a tool to disciple other believers, getting them ready to the point where they can make disciples themselves.  I had been instructed that we were going to have to leave immediately at 4pm, so I concluded the study by simply thanking my brothers for the privilege of sharing with them for the week.  I left and went out and got into the taxi.  Several of the men followed me out and  (I guess) just wanted to have a last look at me. They are such a precious people. thank God for them.

We were finally able to contact the denominational offices and let them know about our money dilemma.  They are wiring the funds to president Mwanya’s account, which will pay our bills and enable us to leave the country.  It is so good to have people back home who can help when crises like this happen.

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This evening, after the evening meal, we went to visit the home of one of the hotel waiters, whom we had befriended. He has three beautiful children, and is also looking after two others, who (if memory serves) are his sister’s children.  Bryce gave them each a balloon. It was so fun to watch them having fun.  After the kids had some fun with us, we walked them back home.  We went through a room where the hotel guards stay.  One of the little girls (about 3 years old) reached out and grabbed my hand for me to walk with her.  When we got to the room where the guards were, she tensed up.  Apparently the guards treat the children roughly, and the little girl was frightened, so she had sought my hand.  I was so glad I was there to help her. It is a cruel thing to make a little child afraid for one;s own amusement

Africa journal entry #7

the family

an amazing day

Thursday, July 31st, 2014  pm

The ride to the church-tent had been challenging and disturbing, but the training sessions at the church today had been absolutely phenomenal.  I finished my instruction on serving and leading with a talk on the value of working together as a family in ministering the gospel.  I had a picture of my family to use as a simple illustration.  It shows my wife and me, our three daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. The LORD impressed upon me that I should walk around and show everyone that picture, and talk about my family’s testimony and history.  I shared how this family is a gift to me, and that many trust me to minister the gospel to them because of the integrity they see in my family. 

The trainees were hooked!  They wanted families like that.  One older gentleman in the group admitted that his wife was a snare for his ministry.  I felt so bad for him; I told him that I would pray for him right then.  But before I did, several others confessed that they had similar problems.  So, we had those few men sit in the center of the sanctuary, and all the rest of us formed a circle, surrounding them and stood  facing them.  I asked everyone of those standing to extend their hands toward those in the center, and I prayed for God to work a miracle in their lives, giving them the godly families they need to minister in his name.  It was amazing.  These men were overjoyed.  We had found and addressed a major need, and were confident that the LORD wanted to meet that need.

IMG_20140801_141536_478My plan for the rest of the day was to give an overview of Advent Christian theological distinctives.  I was very concerned because I did not want the visiting leaders from other traditions to feel that they were being attacked.  So, I explained that these distinctives were not gospel essentials, like the Lordship of Christ, the authority of Scripture, or salvation by grace.  I asked everyone to accept these teaching on the distinctives as my testimony, and to avoid defensive or divisive in their response, either way,  They did exactly that.

I finished teaching at 4pm, because Bryce and I expected to be picked up and brought back to the hotel in the city.  But, as always, there were several questions.  One of the questions was on the subject of women in ministry.  I knew that was a controversial subject in Africa – and just about everywhere else.  But the LORD’s Spirit was present, and they were delighted with my answer on this very complicated subject.

The amazing day was not over yet.  It turned out that our driver had not known that we planned to be picked up at 4pm.  He arrived sometime after six.  In the meantime, several of the women, and one teenage boy began an impromptu concert of African gospel songs.  As they sang and played and danced, another woman gave Bryce and me the translation of some of the songs.

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“Since I claim to be a Christian

but I don’t like my friends

God in heaven

doesn’t like me.”

“If I bring my bible to church

but I don’t like my friends

and I don’t like my pastor

God doesn’t like me.”

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Me, I’m the door

whoever comes through the door will have eternal life.

There are others who try to go through the window.

They are brigands.

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“I will not eat this meal again

until I eat with you

in the heavens.”

 

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Bryce and I arrived at the hotel too late to do anything but have supper, and then a wonderful discussion until about 10pm.  I was thankful to have stayed awake that long, thinking that I might just sleep through the night for a change. Wouldn’t that be a great way to end this amazing day?

Africa journal entry #6

 

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awkward situations

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Another full day of teaching. What struck me was how well thought out the questions these servants of God asked.  They were all practical and essential questions. I really appreciated that.

I’m starting to feel much better physically, but I am still not sleeping well at night, and getting very tired in the early evening. I really enjoy Bryce’s company, and am ashamed to leave so early every night to go to my room to sleep.

4OaAzI finally got to use the internet today. It’s amazing how worried I get when I cannot read emails or check my social networks for a few days. I am such a creature of habit.  Another thing that was just bizarre for me was trying to negotiate the French keyboard at the internet café. I had 30 minutes to be online, but I spent most of that time hunting for keys and making mistakes entering passwords.

I didn’t get a chance to read all my emails, but I figured most of them would wait until I got back to “civilization” i.e., – better internet access.  It is good to be put in awkward situations once in a while. It keeps one humble.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 am

This morning, before we went to the church for the training sessions, we visited several banks trying to draw money from an ATM.  Alas, no luck again.  Bryce figured that the person he had called the night before had unlocked his account for the wrong country (there are two Congos).Money problems like this are a consistent problem for short term missions.  If you bring cash, it can be stolen, but the ATMS are unreliable, and many banks no longer process the funds by any other way.

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On the way through the city, another awkward situation occurred. Our taxi was stopped by three policemen.  They took the driver’s license and registration, searched his vehicle until they found a violation.  He did not have a fire extinguisher in his trunk.  They would not give him his documents back,  and threatened to take him to jail, until he ultimately paid them the “fine.” Ten dollars US.  Apparently this kind of thing is common here.  LORD Jesus, please come back and bring justice to your land.

Africa journal entry #5

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experience overload

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 pm

We broke for lunch after teaching all morning, and Bryce and I ate rice, eggs, and fish in the big tent.  I was feeling much better than the day before, so I really enjoyed that meal. 

 

Most everybody else also had this large potato-like thing.  I don’t remember what it was called.  They also had fish.  everyone ate together and fellowshipped for a while.

We came back together for another session at around 2pm. I taught for another couple of hours – this time on the ministry of serving and leading. We had another Q&A session after that, with a lot more men asking good questions.

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Apparently the taxi we had taken to get to the church site was not available to bring us back, Bryce and I started walking – maybe a mile or two – down a dusty “road” alongside a railroad track. 

 

 

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Then we caught a “bus” which was actually an old van.  The buses did not look like Filipino Jeepneys, but they certainly “acted” like Jeepneys.  We waited for the bus to fill up, and were treated to a fight between two of the drivers/conductors in the buses just before ours on the road.  This served as our entertainment for the day.  It was actually quite embarrassing to watch that display of too much testosterone and too little maturity.

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The bus drove us further down the incredibly uneven road until we finally reached a paved section. There, we got out of the bus and into another car, hired to take us back to the hotel.  As you can see from the photo, the car had right hand drive, but we drove on the right side of the road! That kind of messed me up inside my brain, but it didn’t bother the driver.

 

We arrived exhausted, and just in time to catch the final meal.  It was too late to go to the nearby internet café – again – so, no contact with the outside world for another day. I stopped at Bryce’s room, and we talked for a bit, but I had already been starting to nod off on the ride home, so I left early and went to bed. It was an exhausting day of experience overload, but it was well worth it.

Africa journal entry #4

 

did I mention…?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 am

IMG_20140731_175451_400Bryce Whiting was a really big hit with the kids.  He was everyone’s grandpa.  In Mozambique the week before, Bryce had been teaching the men, and the North Carolina teaching team were teaching the women.  This week, Bryce would teach the women and I would teach the men.  Bryce has a special gift of compassion, and I got the impression that the group he taught really appreciated his time with them. He spoke French, which most of his listeners understood, but some needed the help of others who volunteered interpretations as needed.

IMG_20140731_102105_199 I had a healthy mix of younger and older men – most of whom were already in ministry.  Aside from the core group of nine trainers that we had met the night before, there were perhaps twenty or so others.  They had come from a long distance, and I felt challenged to share some significant things with them.  I did not want to waste this time. 

The morning session I spent teaching a condensed version of the content of my book, The Commands of Christ.  It was basically a summary of what Jesus had commanded his disciples to be like, derived from his commands in the Gospels.

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I had a very capable interpreter named Joshua.  He knows four languages: his tribal language, Kiswahili, French, and English.  He must have had a good theological education as well, considering the relative ease with which he expressed some of the concepts I was trying to teach.

 

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After each session, we had a question and answer session, and these could last quite long as well.  These men were hungry and thirsty for the word of God.  They asked practical questions – the kind that one gets after spending years in the ministry and struggling with difficult issues. I love this kind of intensive study, and it was clear that these servants of our LORD did too.

 

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It was a challenge answering the questions, because I like everything to be thought out well and scripted when I teach.  But the Holy Spirit provided a special grace for me, enabling me to say what these men needed to hear.  As the week would go on, these men’s notebooks would get filled with content from the lessons and Q&A sessions.  They were soaking up the content, and I had no doubt that most of them would be teaching these things themselves in their home communities. Did I mention that I really love this?